BK Specialty Foods
For 30 years, retail and food service customers have turned to family-owned BK Specialty Foods for any number of distinct food and beverage items sourced from around the world. The New Jersey-based company offers more than 2,000 retail products in nearly every food and beverage channel.
“We have a food service division, which sells to hotels, restaurants and chefs and a retail side selling to supermarkets, delis, cheese shops and more,” says Brett Kratchman, president and CEO of BK Specialty Foods. “We sell everything from bakery items to hot sauce, chocolate and gelato to artisan cheese products and condiments from around the world.”
BK Specialty Foods also offers a range of dried fruits and nuts, pasta and sauces, meat and seafood, sauces and marinades, snacks, soups, spices and so much more — the list is incredibly broad. “We have longstanding relationships with leading manufacturers, especially in Europe where we’re really big in sourcing artisan cheese from Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Holland and Denmark,” adds Kratchman.
Pushcart to pushing more than 2,000 items
Today, BK Specialty Foods has a team of 60 employees. The company has grown considerably since Kratchman started the business as a pushcart selling novelty food and drink items. “For some time I was in the vending business,” he recounts. “I had a cart on wheels and I would go to fairs, festivals and catered events and sell ice cream novelties and fresh-squeezed lemonade and orange juice.”
“I started to get calls from chefs and hotels saying, ‘Hey, I saw your product at this festival, how do we get it shipped to us?’” says Kratchman. “Luckily, I had a team of great young, energetic employees to help me and we added some trucks and bought a warehouse.”
In 1986 BK Specialty Foods went into full-service food distribution mode. The company started strong by selling a range of fresh-squeezed citrus products from United Juice Company of America, based in Florida. “From here we started to add other fresh, frozen and dry products that our customers asked for,” shares Kratchman. “We got into more artisan beverages and in the early days we had a lot of success going door to door and selling the products to delis, hotel bars and schools.”
Before long, BK Specialty Foods formed relationships with major names such as Marriott and many Philadelphia area schools like Drexel University. “We started to look at other corners of the world to source products as more ethnic and natural products became popular,” says Kratchman. “As the Asian and Indian influence grew, we saw more demand for global foods.”
As BK Specialty Foods began to take off, Kratchman kept his entrepreneurial eyes open and ended up purchasing the juice company that helped spark the business. “I started as a franchisee of United Juice Company and I eventually joined four other partners to purchase the business,” he says. “We’ve now been in business for 13 years.”
Serving the mid-Atlantic
BK Specialty Foods moved to New Jersey shortly after forming and has grown in size and scope over the last three decades. Today the company ships fresh, frozen and dry products to customers throughout the mid-Atlantic. “In terms of food service, we’re more localized, serving about 100 miles of Philly, into Princeton, the Pocono Mountains and down to the Jersey Shore,” says Kratchman. “On the retail side, we’re more regional. We serve customers up and down the mid-Atlantic, all the way down to Washington, D.C.”
Kratchman says he sees the company’s geographic footprint and product scope growing in coming years. “As far as popular items, we’re getting more into organics and grass-fed meats,” he reveals. “Charcuterie is a big-selling item; meats that have been slow smoked, cured and aged. We’re also seeing a lot more artisan products.”
Whether it’s adding new items to the company’s already extensive list or building new relationships in wider territories, Kratchman says BK Specialty Foods is always trying to move forward. “We have a great facility and team with passionate people, who really love their customers in all facets — operations, sales and purchasing. I like to think we’re a dynamic company. We’re not someone who just wants to stand still — we’re really striving for evolution and capturing more market share.”
With so many longstanding relationships, particularly with mom-and-pop shops in the Philadelphia area, Kratchman says BK Specialty Foods is in a solid position to see these goals through. “We’ve made some really good connections over the years and we still have relationships that began when the company started,” he says. “With so much consolidation in this industry it has become notoriously competitive and we’ve also made some acquisitions, buying more into the cheese and coffee business. We have national footprint distributors knocking on our door in hopes of making a more regional connection.”
“We’re still family owned,” adds Kratchman. “My siblings play an active role in the business and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.” These family ties and regional connections continue to distinguish BK Specialty Foods as a leader in the gourmet retail and niche food item distribution business.